Belief in a just what? Demystifying just world beliefs by distinguishing sources of justice

Katherine Stroebe, Tom Postmes, Susanne Täuber, Alwin Stegeman, Melissa-Sue John

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People’s Belief in a Just World (BJW) plays an important role in coping with misfortune and unfairness. This paper demonstrates that understanding of the BJW concept, and its consequences for behavior, is enhanced if we specify what (or who) the source of justice might be. We introduce a new scale, the 5-Dimensional Belief in a Just Treatment Scale (BJT5), which distinguishes five causal dimensions of BJW (God, Nature, Other People, Self, Chance). We confirm the 5-factor structure of the BJT5. We then address whether the BJW should be considered a uni- and/or multi- dimensional construct and find support for our multi-dimensional approach. Finally, we demonstrate convergent and discriminant validity with respect to important correlates of BJW as well as action in response to important negative life events and societal attitudes. This work illustrates the importance of distinguishing causal dimensions with regard to who distributes justice.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0120145
Number of pages30
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 24-Mar-2015


  • Justice
  • Belief in a Just World
  • Action
  • Inaction
  • Scale validation

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